Process Block Diagram

Prevention or Detection as Quality Control

Prevention or DetectionAn age-old question: Quality Control: Prevention or Detection? Estimates show that it is ten times more costly to correct a problem than it is to prevent it. With this kind of savings, companies can reduce prices, expand their R&D, and increase profits at the same time. Changes to a product’s characteristics are merely a reflection of changes in input. Therefore, the key to preventing defects in a product is to monitor and control all aspects of its production.  This brings us to an exploration of processes.

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Pump Casing Model
Statistical Thinking vs. Engineering Thinking

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Thinking of the core concepts of quality and statistical process control we consider statistical thinking vs. engineering thinking.

Engineers have it made. In the world of engineering, the formulas are precise and definitive. When products are designed, the dimensions are exact, the calculations are accurate, and the resulting characteristics are known.

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Specs and Work Quotas

Variation and controlling variability.

Why do We Need Tolerances?

Specs and Work QuotasIf it was possible to make all items alike, we would not need tolerances. But no two things are exactly alike. So, we must make allowances for the differences. Tolerances are these allowances. They provide a range over which a product can vary and still be accepted by the customer.

Of course, “accepted” is not “desired,” and in the battle over width of tolerances the idea of a specific target has been lost. For example, ask almost any machinist what size a part is supposed to be, and you will get a range as the answer — “from 2.048 to 2.052 inches.” Why isn’t the answer “2.050 inches” if that is the target? Because with tolerances, we tend to aim for the acceptable range instead of the exact target. This means we are less likely to hit the target. It also means our variance will most likely be greater than if we aimed for the target.

Zontec has taken SPC and made it simple. Stable and Capable processes are possible with SynergySPC.

That leaves us with a bit of a dilemma.

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FIgure 1-1 The Book of Statistical Process Control

In the previous posts in this series, we gained an understanding of what the quality means and that it has a different meaning to different parties.  We then acknowledged that the way the customer defines quality, while highly subjective and of utmost concern, can be simplified.  Today, we walk a step further, considering how a producer’s view on quality, while technically closer to optimal, may not be the best for business.  This variance in process and results is how quality affects your customer’s buying choice.  Let explore this further.

The illustration below shows the output of two companies making the same part. Company A has much tighter control over the dimension but their process is centered near the low limit. Company B, however, doesn’t have enough control to keep their products within spec all the time and produces a 3% out-of-spec product.

FIgure 1-1 The Book of Statistical Process Control

From a producer’s point of view, Company A would appear to be the better company. The tighter control of the dimensions reduces the cost of materials.

Zontec has taken SPC and made it simple and Cloud SPC is the place to realize the benefits of quality to your organization. Or…

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Company A has much tighter control over the dimension but their process is centered near the low limit. Company B, however, doesn’t have enough control to keep their products within spec all the time and produces a 3% out-of-spec product. Again, from a producer’s point of view, Company A would appear to be the better company. The tighter control of the dimensions reduces the cost of materials.

But this is only one way to look at it.  What about the customer’s point-of-view?

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[This content is from Zontec’s The Book of Statistical Process Control.  You can download a free copy here.]

In a separate post on quality itself, we defined quality.  This is not an easy task since quality, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. We identified five points we can all agree on that equate to quality.  More important than this though is how your customer (not you) defines quality. When it comes to quality, your customer is concerned with three different areas: design quality, manufacturing quality, and performance quality.


Credit: flickr: Particularly Everything

Design Quality

Design Quality is the intended shape, size, color and function of the product. The designer must assess the needs of the customer and select characteristic values that will create the greatest customer satisfaction. 

Manufacturing Quality

Manufacturing Quality is how well the product meets the design. It is this type of quality that is the main subject of our free e-Book, The Book of Statistical Process Control. The better the manufacturing quality is, the better the product quality will be. And if this type of quality is good, product quality will be more consistent. Keep in mind, however, that while improving manufacturing will improve a product to a certain extent, it will never improve a poor design.

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In the 35+ years since our founding, we’ve detailed the concepts of quality and SPC to a great degree. However, it’s important from time to time to remind ourselves just what is quality and why is it important.

Before we can control quality, we need to understand what the word “quality” means. Quality, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Each of us judges the quality of many items every day, and we each have a different idea about what quality is for each item. We know what we like or what we want, and what we don’t like or want. How we determine the quality of an item depends on both our personal preference and our frame of reference for that particular item. Read more

5 Reasons
5 Reasons

Credit: Flickr: Particularly Everything

Recently, IBM shared a fantastic infographic on their Flickr page outlining why the cloud is becoming more of a business decision as opposed to an IT decision.  The reasons they cited may seem obvious but once we consider the broad effect of adoption, they become quite compelling.

It comes as no surprise that companies are adding cloud computing to their technology resources at an ever increasing rate.  Late last year Cisco released its The Cisco Global Cloud Index (GCI).  They identify it as a report that forecasts data center and cloud traffic as well as key trends for 2013-2018.

Is cloud-based SPC the place to realize the benefits to your organization? Or just…

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One highlight of the report shows that a large portion of cloud traffic will be driven by the increasing presence of network connected devices that allow collaboration of people, data, and processes.  This holds true as more manufacturing facilities embrace connectivity and accessibility at the place where it is needed.

Takeaways from IBM’s 5 Reasons Businesses Use the Cloud

  1. Better Insight and Visibility – Businesses use the cloud to gather insights, share data, and store data for future reference.
  2. Collaboration is Easier – Work is accessible from anywhere on any device. Integration between development, operations, and production gives the company a competitive advantage.
  3. Variety of Needs are Supported – Technology can drive better outcomes. Applications like SPC software can drive better quality and productivity.
  4. Rapid Development of New Process, Products, and Services – Cloud computing streamlines development and provides additional capabilities that lead to innovation.
  5. Proven Concept – Businesses document reduction in IT costs, increased efficiency, and employee mobility.

The move to cloud computing and virtualization is a forgone conclusion.  Ken Hess writes for Virtually Speaking at ZDNet, he believes that “the day of the conventional ‘one physical server, one workload’ is coming to an end.”

IBM Infographic on Flickr


In today’s “microwave society”, it’s easy to expect quick results even in incredibly complex ventures. Today, we remind ourselves to be methodical and patient.

Don’t place unrealistic demands on yourself or your quality team. Start Slowly!

Perhaps the words of the Greek historian, biographer and essayist conveyed it best for us to take our time. Most companies with successful SPC programs didn’t try to convert all their processes at once, they selected one target area. What problem is the most costly? What problem seems to have a high probability of success? Pareto analysis can help you decide what to tackle first.

“Many things which cannot be overcome when they are together, yield themselves up when taken little by little.”


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In recent posts we detailed concepts on how to help make your program a success by ensuring your team is educated, that they understand transition is an investment, and that everyone is aware of the role that production workers must embrace.

Management team's role

Credit: flickr: woodleywonderworks

Naturally, any discussion of production worker’s role should be paired with a discussion of the management team’s role.

The Management Team’s Role.  

Set an example of trust

As mentioned earlier, management must have faith in SPC methods. Continuous process improvement is a proven methodology to improve business processes and save companies money.  Managers must respond to chart data, rely on trusting the tried-and-true methodology and lead by example to encourage production workers to do the same. How important is management to the success of the program?

How can Zontec SPC help you with informing your management team? Register for a software trial here.

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It is important to make your program a success by ensuring your team is educated about SPC concepts.  Another element to success is creating a culture of confidence and patience as the transition occurs within your organization. The next phase is identifying the production team’s role in implementing and making your SPC program successful long-term.

The Production Team's Role in SPC

Credit: flickr: Jim Bahn

The Production Team’s Role.  

Your “eyes on the street”

The production team is vital to the success of the program, because they have the best view of the process. Only shop floor production workers know from personal experience the current practices and problems on the floor. Chances are they have a good sense of their equipment’s capabilities including how to tweak it to make it do what they want.

As improvements are adopted, the production team will also know they are further maximizing their time.  In actual case studies, we have found estimates that clients using the Synergy Suite are saving approximately 30% of an operator’s day due to data entry. Synergy virtually eliminates data entry errors giving your team the time to focus on other value-added activities that include refining processes that are in front of them daily.

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